A time of persecution and recovery

The appointment of the Jesuit Adam Schall von Bell as director of the Astronomical Bureau by the Shunzhi Emperor in 1645 suggested that the missionaries and Christianity had been accepted by the new regime. For a while the prestige attached to the court Jesuits' position afforded a degree of protection to priests and converts. However, this relatively trouble-free period came to an end as a result of the so-called 'Calendar Case' instigated by Yang Guang-xian. Having made several attempts to have the foreigners in charge of the Astronomical Bureau removed, Yang attacked both Christianity and western learning. His report of September 1664 convinced the regents of the young Kangxi emperor that Schall had not only made several astronomical errors but that the Jesuit missionaries were plotting rebellion and indoctrinating the people with false ideas. After lengthy investigation, Schall and seven officials in the Astronomical Bureau, including five Christians, were sentenced to death. Although Schall was pardoned, the Christian officials were executed in 1665, most of the missionaries were imprisoned in Guangzhou (Canton), and the churches in the provinces were closed.

The Calendar Case resulted from several factors, some of which had been smouldering before Yang launched his attack - such as personal rivalry among the Jesuits, tensions between pro- and anti-Christian factions at court, and bitterness among the Muslim astronomers whom Schall had displaced. This episode marked the first comprehensive attack on western learning, and the judgement was followed in 1669 with the first prohibition of the propagation

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